Barack Wins the Under-18 Vote

Well, I’m no fan of mock voting, and as a matter of fact I stand firmly in opposition to it. However, I do appreciate that at the very least it raises the visibility of Youth Voice. It seems that the preliminary estimates from the National Mock Election, held last week across the United States, show Presidential candidate Barack Obama winning 46 states.

Mock elections, mock voting and mock parliaments are an apparatus of ignorance that forces young people to internalize their powerlessness in the political process of the United States. Mock elections grind into young peoples’ heads that their political voice is not worthy of full consideration until they are 18, at which point their minds will become suddenly capable of understanding politics and their votes will suddenly matter. Oh, and you’d better become politically active when you’re 18 for fear of being a pariah. (Ever wonder why the voting rates for 18-25 year-olds weren’t high after the national voting age was lowered in the 1972? Because youth were continuing to react to generations of systemic disenfranchisement. Young people are just beginning to emerge as significant political players, and as they begin to recognize their individual and collective power we are only going to see increased ephebiphobia throughout society.) A complicit component in these mock elections is the emphasis on the so-called “youth vote”, which generally when spoken of by the mainstream media refers to actual voting by 18 to 25 year olds. What does that tell young people under 18? That they aren’t youth and that they are still children. And since we, as a society, have infantalized children to the point of worthlessness to society, no one wants to be a kid.

All told, this situation makes the mock affairs nothing more than exercises in futility that frame children and youths’ opinions as not worthy of real consideration. Further complicating the scenario are the well-meaning adults who propagate these activities in schools and youth-serving organizations. We mean to engage young people, we mean to hear their opinions, we mean to validate them by at least acknowledging what they think. These adults aren’t bad people, and honestly I have been a promoter in the past. However, it ended for me the day a group of teens at a youth center scoffed at me when I suggested they participate. I asked them to tell me why, and they did, and now, well…

Now I see a different route to promoting civic engagement among young people. Rather than continue to perpetuate this egregious and immoral violation of citizenship and human rights, the United States should completely abolish the voting age. Germany has considered this as a serious legislative agenda, and we must follow this mode. Only then can we move from openly and unabashedly mocking Youth Voice to actually engaging, sustaining and integrating young people throughout society.

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